Politics December 7, 2014: Heller says lame duck Congress will not vote on unemployment benefits extension

Heller says lame duck Congress will not vote on unemployment benefits extension

December 7, 2014, 8:08 PM MST

 Despite high long-term unemployment numbers the outgoing and incoming Senate Majority Leaders, Harry Reid, D-NV or Mitch McConnells, R-KY have any plans to extend benefits
Despite high long-term unemployment numbers the outgoing and incoming Senate Majority Leaders, Harry Reid, D-NV or Mitch McConnells, R-KY has any plans to extend benefits
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

 

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Politics October 28, 2014: Obama, Labor Department boosting unemployment extension by raising benefits

October 12, 2014: Raising minimum wage not unemployment extension top issue for Obama in midterms

Politics September 18, 2014: Weekly jobless claims drops, Congress recesses, unemployment extension ignored

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Weekly jobless claims drops, Congress recesses, unemployment extension ignored

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, September 18, 2014, 10:17 PM MST

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is keeping interest rates low as long as the unemployment situation remains troublesome depite weekly claims dropping, Sept. 18, 2014
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is keeping interest rates low as long as the unemployment situation remains troublesome despite weekly claims dropping, Sept. 18, 2014
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Politics August 27, 2014: McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

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McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 27, 2014, 3:30 PM MST

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers a speech to a group of donors at a Koch brothers event how a Republican Senate would act, and it would oppose every economic issue supported by President Barack Obama, June 5, 2014

Win McNamee/Getty Images / The Undercurrent

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY recently spoke on June 15, 2014, at a summit hosted by the Koch brothers in Dana Point, Calif. which included an audience of millionaires and billionaires as part his campaign for reelection as the Senator from Kentucky. In his speech entitled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” The damaging elements of the speech have obtained The Nation and The Undercurrent who published a full-text transcript of the speech and the audio on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. McConnell attacked and stated his vehement opposition to President Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats economic agenda, making particularly mocking comments about the unemployment benefits extension and raising the minimum wage.

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Sen. McConnell was courting donors at the event called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” McConnell is facing one of the toughest elections in 30-year career against Democrat Kentucky’s Secretary of Alison Lundergan Grimes. They remain close in the polls with McConnell see slight leads. At stake in this midterm election is Republican control of the Senate and of Congress, and should McConnell win reelection he will most probably be voted in as Senate majority leader by his colleagues.

McConnell promised a  Republican budget that would “shrink” government spending, stating; “So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it…”

Those publications retained the speech’s audio after McConnell gave an interview with Politico about his plans to prevent Obama’s economic and social agenda if the Republicans gain control of the Senate in the midterm elections in November. So far most polls give the Republicans a slight lead over the Democrats and believe the GOP has a chance of acquiring the six seats necessary for a majority.

McConnell told Politico about the GOP’s plans, saying; “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy. That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.” McConnell explained that Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.” Putting riders on spending bills as Politico points out threatens a government shutdown if Obama disagrees with the Republicans in Congress.

McConnell told the group of donors about his opposition to the unemployment benefits extension, not stating the reason behind it is a difference of opinion on policy, but because he believes it is immoral. McConnell said; “And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible)-cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

Grimes attacked McConnell back on his position on two key economic issues important to the Democrats in the midterm elections campaign. Democrats have the most part stood behind President Obama’s economic opportunity program, which he has been promoting since his State of the Union address and signing executive orders and memorandums to make 2014 a year of economic action. Grimes has campaign TV ads pointing out that McConnell “vot[ed] 17 times against raising the minimum wage” and “12 times against extending unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.”

Republicans have long opposed the benefits extension, because they claim benefits perpetuate unemployment, thinking that those receiving the benefits do not want to work, but prefer taking what the Republicans consider the easy way taking benefits, free money. Recent studies contradict this assertion, concluding that unemployment especially in the long-term depressed Americans and they would prefer to work for any money they receive.

The EUC program which helped Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks expired on Dec. 28, 2013. One bill the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 authored by Senators Jack Reed, D-RI, and Dean Heller, R-NV co-authored and co-sponsored passed the Senate in April. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, however, failed to put the bill to a vote before its June 1, 2014, deadline, because it did not include job creation measures.

On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Reed and Heller unveiled a new bill, extending benefits for five months without a deadline and the retroactive element included in the first bill, but there is still no job creation measures. The House also introduced its own bipartisan unemployment extension bill co-authored and sponsored by Representatives Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ-02 and Dan Kildee, D-MI-05 and introduced on Wednesday afternoon, June 25, 2014. There has been no action in the House or Senate on either bill before the August Congressional recess.

Congressional Republicans vote against almost every economic bill supported by President Obama, and Congressional Democrats designed to help lower-income and middle-class Americans. McConnell filibustered the very first incarnation of the unemployment benefits extension bill authored by Reed and Heller on February 7 because it did not fund to offset the bill’s cost. McConnell also filibustered the bill to raise the minimum across the country to $10.10 at the end of April. McConnell also filibustered a bill authored by Elizabeth Warren in June to refinance student loan debt because it would raise taxes on the wealthy. His record is proving Democrats right that he is only serving the millionaires and billionaires he was courting.

Democrats in the Senate and the House still very much support the unemployment benefits extension. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV promises to still put the new Reed-Heller bill to a vote. The Senate returns, however, on Sept. 8 and Reid wants to recess for the midterm election campaign only two weeks later on Sept, 23 leaving little time to push through a vote. Still, as Learning and Finance point out, the Democrats might make the unemployment benefits extension as a campaign issue and push through the bill while they still have a majority and can.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

 

Politics August 24, 2014: Obama shifts from easing unemployment with benefits extension to job creation

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Obama shifts from easing unemployment with benefits extension to job creation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 24, 2014, 6:23 AM MST

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President Barack Obama delivers his weekly address on the US Export-Import Bank, job creation, and the recovering economy, Aug. 23. 2014

Win McNamee/Getty Images / White House

The year 2014 started with the main issue revolving America’s unemployment and the expiration and renewal of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program and helped the long-term jobless, but now both Congress and President Barack Obama are emphasizing job creation as the economy recovers and the short-term unemployment rate falls. President Obama used his weekly address entitled “The Export-Import Bank” released on Saturday morning, August 23, 2014, to boast of the economic recovery, the lowering short-term unemployment rate and urged Congress to renew the charter for U.S. Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire in September.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The EUC program which helped Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks expired on Dec. 28, 2013. One bill the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 that Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV co-authored and co-sponsored passed in the Senate in April. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, however, failed to put the bill to a vote before its June 1, 2014, deadline, because it did not include job creation measures.

On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Reed and Heller unveiled a new bill, extending benefits for five months without a deadline and the retroactive element included in the first bill, but there is still no job creation measures. The House also introduced its own bipartisan unemployment extension bill co-authored and sponsored by Representatives Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ-02 and Dan Kildee, D-MI-05 and introduced on Wednesday afternoon, June 25, 2014. There has been no action in the House or Senate on either bill before the August Congressional recess.

The GOP have been emphasizing job creation rather than unemployment benefits because they believe it perpetuates unemployment. The Republicans are also quoting new research to back-up their assertion including the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded in a recent study released this past spring that “unemployment benefit extensions can account for most of the persistently high unemployment after the Great Recession.” Additionally, researchers at “Federal Reserve banks in Dallas and St. Louis” have also determined in their regional studies that long-term unemployment benefits prolong unemployment, the unemployed have less of an incentive to get a new job or even actively look for work.

Another study, however, contradicts that claim, Andrew C. Quinn of the Conservative American Enterprise Institute recently brought up a 2012 study done by Stanford University sociology professor Cristobal Young who concludes “Unemployment benefits make unemployment easier.” The study entitled “Losing a Job: The Nonpecuniary Cost of Unemployment in the United States” also looked at the psychological effects of unemployment and Young determines unemployment makes people unhappy and even if they would collect their full wages, without working for them Americans are miserable. Young wrote; “Unemployment benefits merely take a little bit of the edge off the happiness downdraft from being laid off. To be sure, the financial help cuts back on some stress at the margins. But just as clearly, involuntary idleness brings a massive psychological cost that mere money can hardly touch.”

Since President Barack Obama announced his economic opportunity program during his State of the Union address in January 2014, he has signed over 20 executive orders to help the economic plight of lower income and middle-class Americans, but there is one area he has not done any action to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Obama used to regularly pressure and criticize Congressional Republicans for not passing the extension in speeches, but as the year wore on, he has increasingly overlooked the issue even after the Reed-Heller adopted in the Senate. Even ignoring Speaker Boehner begging the president or the White House to provide him a list of mutually acceptable job creation measures to add to the Reed-Heller bill to put the bill to a House vote.

Now President Obama spends more time in speeches praising his administration’s part in the economic recovery, than remembering the still increasing long-term unemployment rate. In his weekly address Obama gave himself again a pat on the back stating “Nearly six years after the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 53 months. That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history. And we’re in a six-month streak with our economy creating at least 200,000 new jobs each month — the first time that’s happened since 1997.”

The June jobs report and the July jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning, Aug. 1 has been misleading and assisting Republican opponents of the unemployment benefits extension. The July jobs report showed good news about the economy, specifically regarding short-term term unemployment and job creation. According to the report, however, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent. Still, 209,000 jobs were added and 238,000 created.

The bad news of the July jobs reports continued to be the persistent long-term unemployment rate. Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks; they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and dropped by 1.1 million since July 2013.

President Obama has joined the Republicans in emphasizing job creation more than helping the long-term unemployed with benefits they need now. In his weekly addressObama indicated that the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s “sole mission is to create American jobs. That’s it. It helps many American entrepreneurs take that next step and take their small business global.”

This time President Obama is attacking Republicans for not renewing the job creating a charter, which always had bipartisan support in the past. Obama recounted; “Now, past Congresses have done this 16 times, always with support from both parties. Republican and Democratic Presidents have supported the bank, too. This time around shouldn’t be any different. Because the bank works. It’s independent. It pays for itself. But if Congress fails to act, thousands of businesses, large and small, that sell their products abroad will take a completely unnecessary hit.” The president is urging Americans to pressure their Congressional representative into renewing the charter

The GOP House was more open to passing job creating legislation versus the unemployment benefits extension, passing the Senate’s bipartisan job training bill the “reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (PL 105-220).” The bill reforming federal training programs passed with overwhelming support in both houses, in the Senate the bill as passed in June by a vote of 95 to 3 and in the House on Wednesday, July 9 with a vote of 415 to 6. Yet, two unemployment benefits extension bills sit struck in the committee stage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV promises to still put the new Reed-Heller bill to a vote. The Senate returns, however, on Sept. 8 and Reid wants to recess for the midterm election campaign only two weeks later on Sept, 23 leaving little time to push through a vote. Still, as Learning and Finance point out, the Democrats might use the unemployment benefits extension as a campaign issue and push through the bill.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics August 18, 2014: Levin and House Democrats still support the unemployment benefits extension

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Levin and House Democrats still support the unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 18, 2014, 8:14 AM MST

Rep. Sander Levin and House Democrats showed their support for the 3.2 millon long-term unemployed and the benefits extension with five Witness Wednesday press conferences reading personal stories of hardship
Rep. Sander Levin and House Democrats showed their support for the 3.2 million long-term unemployed and the benefits extension with five Witness Wednesday press conferences reading personal stories of hardship
democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov

Politics August 17, 2014: New research supports GOP unemployment extension opposition

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Congressional Republicans have long thought that unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless prolongs unemployment, now they are using three studies as an excuse not to pass an extension
Congressional Republicans have long thought that unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless prolong unemployment, now they are using three studies as an excuse not to pass an extension
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Politics August 15, 2014: Obama considering possible executive action for the unemployment extension

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Obama considering possible executive action for the unemployment extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 15, 2014, 6:05 PM MST

There is speculation that President Barack Obama might consider executive action to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, Aug. 12, 2014
There is speculation that President Barack Obama might consider executive action to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, Aug. 12, 2014
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Politics August 6, 2014: Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

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Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 6, 2014, 3:24 PM MST

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For the long-term jobless the economy is not as good as President Barack Obama declared in his press conference, especially since for the pass 8 months Congress will not renew the benefits extension, Aug. 1, 2014

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / The White House

President Barack Obama used his pre-August recess press conference held at the White House press briefing room on Friday afternoon, Aug. 1, 2014, and his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Aug. 2, 2014, to boast about the good economic news. The July jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning, Aug. 1 showed an increase in new jobs and decrease in unemployment. The president focused on what more that can be done for the middle class if the Republicans in Congress would not block his agenda. President Obama emphasized elements from his economic opportunity program including raising the minimum wage, student loans repayments, fair pay and paid leave, however, noticeably absent was any mention of extending long-term jobless benefits. President Obama in full campaign mode is still trying his unsuccessful tactic of shaming the Republicans to pass nationwide bills on those issues he has already signed executive actions for, but he never threatens to veto any bill to push the unemployment benefits extension through Congress and now evens forgets to mention it.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama referenced in his opening remarks on the economy from his press conference both the July Jobs report and the news that the U.S. economy grew by 4 percent in the second quarter, the best shape the economy has been in since 2005. President’s Obama used his weekly address entitled “It’s Time for Congress to Help the Middle Class” to also brag about the improving economy specifically the falling unemployment rates. Obama called the economic achievement “the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.”

Speaking of the jobs report, Obama focused on putting the July statistics in historical context, making sure the sound even better than might be. Obama was not just boasting at his own achievements, but also as a campaign pitch for the Democrats in the midterm election campaign. Obama announced “This morning, we learned that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July. That’s on top of about 300,000 new jobs in June. So we are now in a six-month streak with at least 200,000 new jobs each month. That’s the first time that has happened since 1997. Over the past year, we’ve added more jobs than any year since 2006. And all told, our businesses have created 9.9 million new jobs over the past 53 months. That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.”

When referring to the economic growth this past quarter, Obama again boasted; “And as we saw on Wednesday, the economy grew at a steady pace in the spring. Companies are investing. Consumers are spending. American manufacturing, energy, technology, autos — all are booming. And thanks to the decisions that we’ve made, and the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve recovered faster and come farther from the recession than almost any other advanced country on Earth.”

President Obama made almost the same declaration about the economic recovery in his press conference and weekly address. Speaking at the press conference, Obama made the over-generalization “So the good news is the economy clearly is getting stronger. Things are getting better. Our engines are revving a little bit louder. And the decisions that we make right now can sustain and keep that growth and momentum going.”

The president highlighted that there are measures and legislation that if passed can help the economy continue to grow. Obama pointed out; “Unfortunately, there are a series of steps that we could be taking to maintain momentum, and perhaps even accelerate it; there are steps that we could be taking that would result in more job growth, higher wages, higher incomes, more relief for middle-class families.” As the punchline, the president put all the blame on the Republicans in Congress for those bills not being passed “And so far, at least, in Congress, we have not seen them willing or able to take those steps.”

President Obama accentuated his dedication to helping the middle class by sharply contrasting himself from the Republicans at three points in his weekly address. Obama declared, “My top priority as President is doing everything I can to create more jobs and more opportunities for hardworking families to get ahead,” and later stating; “I’ll never stop trying to work with both parties to get things moving faster for the middle class.” President Obama concluded his address with a promise; “I will never stop doing whatever I can, whenever I can, not only to make sure that our economy succeeds but that people like you succeed.”

President Obama’s entire address focused on the legislation the Republicans in Congress are preventing from passing and helping middle class improve their economic position. Unlike his press conference where the President listed all the ways, the Republicans have made Congress dysfunctional in both domestic and foreign issues, in his weekly address, he focused on economic concerns, stating; “All of them would help working families feel more stable and secure. And all of them have been blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress.”

With all the talk about possible impeachment over his ever growing list of executive actions taken in domestic policy since the start of the year, Obama still justified and praised himself for taking action when Congress does not. The president even poked fun at the House Republicans who voted to sue him over the health care law’s the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare’s delayed employer mandate. The Republican House voted 225 to 201 in a pre-recess vote on Wednesday, July 30 to sue the president for not having Congress vote on delay.

Mocking and making light of the vote Obama expressed; “That’s why my administration keeps taking what actions we can on our own to help working families – because Congress is doing so little for working families. House Republicans actually got together this week and voted to sue me for taking actions on my own. And then they left town for the month without settling a bunch of unfinished business that matters to working families across America.”

In President Obama’s sunshine view of the economic recovery, he seemed to have forgotten the 3.2 million long-term jobless Americans, who after more than 26 weeks of unemployment still suffer and cannot find jobs. Making their situation even more challenging is the fact that for over eight months since the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, these Americans slowly lost benefits that helped them survive.

During those same eight months two senators Republican Dean Heller, R-NV and Democrat, Jack Reed, D-RI have been working to pass a bill to extend benefits. They also included reinstituting the EUC program that started in 2008 at the outset of the great recession and economic downturn, after a failure in February, they finally reached an acceptable bipartisan deal in March.

The first Reed-Heller bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote on April 7, 2014. The bill included a retroactive element with a five-month deadline valid only from Dec. 28, 2013, to June 1, 2014. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH objected to the bill’s retroactive aspect calling it “unimplementable” and insisted that it include job creation elements. Boehner also insisted that President Obama or the White House provide in general a list of acceptable job creating provisions to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014.

Boehner particularly pressured the president since after the bill passed in the Senate and transferred to the committee stage in the House. Job creation provisions were a key demand from the speaker to put the bill to a House vote. Obama had his press secretaries respond, and his Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a May 7 letter to Boehner only provided the speaker a Democratic job creation wish list, but not one that would satisfy Republicans and would help.

President Obama however, never did and still has no plans to phone and discuss the bill with the speaker, instead of giving campaign-style speeches blaming the GOP have been his mantra because they help the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. Like this, his weekly address and press conference held on Friday, August 1, 2014, Obama patted himself on the back for the improved economy and July jobs report but ignored the rest of the report that showed long-term unemployment stagnantly and even rising.

Sen. Heller puts more of the blame on President Obama than even the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Heller blames the White House and President Obama for the bill’s failure because they refused to negotiate with Boehner and would not provide him with an acceptable list of job-creating provisions as he requested for the speaker to put the bill to a vote in the House.

Sens. Reed and Heller introduced on June 24, another unemployment benefits extension bill. The new stand-alone bill attempts to comply more with Speaker of the House John Boehner’s, R-OH demands. The bill will have a five-month extension, lasting approximately until the end of 2014, does not have a deadline, and will cost a total of $10 billion.

The new bill is doing worse than the first one, with even the Senate ignoring the bill. It no longer has five Republicans supporting it, only Heller, which would make it difficult to pass the legislative hurdles and advance in the Senate. The bill lost its funding when the House and Republican-authored Highway Trust Fund Bill decided to use the unemployment benefits extension bill’s funding of “pension smoothing” and “extending customs fees,” leaving the bill without a funding source. Since the Highway Trust Fund bill had to pass by Aug. 1, if not transportation funding would have been cut by 28 percent with “100,000 transportation projects” and “700,000 construction jobs” on the line it had been deemed a priority to President Obama, the GOP House, and Democratic Senate.

Additionally, although Reed and Heller were working to add the unemployment benefits extension bill to a popular bipartisan bill, one by one Congress passed their options, while Congress ignored the unemployment extension and left it out in the cold. First the authors‘ of the Senate bipartisan Workforce Investment Act, a job training bill did not want to include the bill as a supplemental as to not hinder the bill’s passage. Then there was the business tax cuts extenders bill “S.2260 – EXPIRE Act of 2014” that failed to advance in the Senate. Reed and Heller also wanted the extension added to the emergency border crisis spending bill with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV being at first opened to the idea and then decided against it. In the end, that bill also failed to advance in the Senate.

The July jobs report showed good news about the economy, specifically regarding short-term term unemployment and job creation. According to the report, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent and 209,000 jobs were added, with 238,000 created. The numbers were less than initially suspected, but are still considered a victory for the economy because it marks the sixth month that the economy has added more than 200,00 jobs. As President Obama pointed out it at his press conference; “That’s the first time that has happened since 1997.”

Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks; they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and declined by 1.1 million since July 2013.

There are, however, still 3.2 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.9 percent of all unemployed Americans. Older workers, women and younger workers within service and blue-collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, the EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Here it is eight months later with long-term unemployment essentially not and Congress is no closer in fact further from passing an extension than it was then.

Although President Obama never mentioned the unemployment benefits extension in either his press conference and subsequent weekly address, he did acknowledge that more can be done for the middle class if Congress the passes Obama’s economic agenda. In his weekly address, he admitted; “The bottom line is this – we’ve come a long way these past five and a half years. Our challenges are nowhere near as daunting as they were back then. But imagine how much farther along our economy would be – how much stronger our country would be – if Congress would do its job.”

Obama and Democrats have chosen economic opportunity as their key issue in the midterm election campaign. The Democrats are on the edge where they might lose six seats and their control in the Senate. They already realize regaining control of the House of Representatives is virtually impossible at this point. Presidents often see their parties lose seats in the second midterm elections of their terms, and Obama and Democrats are trying to curb that precedent.

The economic opportunity program, however, has not energized the base and voters as much as the Democrats had hoped. However, more recently Obama has recently completely forgotten the 3.2 million long-term jobless Americans, probably because to him the bill is not a winning battle with Congress and with voters. President Obama will no doubt ably continue his campaign rhetoric as the year progresses, boasting of his administration’s accomplishments, focusing on economic issues important to the Democratic base and included in the Obama budget and attack, attack and mock the Republicans hoping it will be enough to keep the Senate come November.

RELATED LINKS

  • President Barack Obama’s Press Conference, Aug. 1, 2014

Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics August 4, 2014: Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

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Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, 

August 4, 2014, 5:14 PM MST

The Democratic Senate passed, and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund bill which takes away funding for the unemployment benefits extension bill, Aug. 1, 2014

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Now that the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund extension bill on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, the payment method for the unemployment benefits extension bill has been permanently taken away. The highway bill uses pension smoothing and customs fees to pay for the short-term extension lasting until May 2015. The unemployment benefits extension bill’s co-authors Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV had been planning to use since March 2014 when they first unveiled their bipartisan bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014. Meanwhile Reed and Heller are working to find new funding, and unfortunately the 3.2 million long-term jobless will have to wait another five weeks until the Senate returns on Sept. 8 from the August recess to see any real possible action on the bill.

The highway and transportation bill, the MAP-21 Reauthorization had two different incarnations in the House and Senate; the bill had to pass by Aug. 1 if not transportation funding would have been cut by 28 percent with “100,000 transportation projects” and “700,000 construction jobs” on the line. Since so many jobs are at stake, it has been deemed a priority to President Obama, the GOP House, and Democratic Senate. The bill’s importance and funding methods come at the expense of the unemployment benefits extension bill and the over 3.2 million Americans that desperately want to see the bill pass and benefits renewed.

The unemployment benefits extension’s bill’s authors Jack Reed, D-RI, and Dean Heller, R-NV have been trying to get their bill added as a supplemental to must pass bipartisan bills, including the Highway Trust Fund bill, and the emergency border crisis spending bill, both efforts have proved fruitless. Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV was open to adding the extension to either bill it never happened.

The Highway Trust Fund bill first passed the Senate on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, with a vote of 79 to 18. The Senate passed their own version of the bill forgoing the House’s version. The primary reason the House’s bill was refused was their choice of funding sources, which the Senate considered a “gimmick.” According to the Associated Press, “Lawmakers” think “it will cost the government money in the long run and undermine the financial stability of pension funds.” Instead, the Senate wanted to make “it harder for people to claim tax deductions and credits they don’t qualify for.”

Republicans usually object to pension smoothing, including when it was being used for the unemployment benefits extension, but this is the second time in this year they have used it to fund bills. The Highway Trust Fund has always been paid for by the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax, but the tax is too low and can no longer support it, the Democratic Senate wanted to raise the tax for a long-term bill, but the House Republicans and President Obama oppose the idea.

The Senate added a bipartisan amendment sponsored and authored by Tom Carper, D-DE, Barbara Boxer, D-Ca and Bob Corker R-TN “stripping” the bill of the funding of the questionable funding sources, lowering its price tag to $8.1 billion and making the extension last on until Dec. 19, 2014. The point was to make the House agree to a long-term bill during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections in November. The amendment passed 66 to 31.

The fact that the Senate refused the House’s bill at first seemed like the only good news for the unemployment benefits extension because it appeared to ensure the funding sources were still available for the bill. Later in the week, the House decided to refuse the Senate’s revised bill forcing the Senate to agree to the funding meant for the unemployment benefits extension.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH promised if the Senate passed their own version of the bill the House would just send it back, the original way they passed it. Boehner warned; “I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we’re going to strip it out and put the House-passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate.” The House did reject the Senate-passed version with a vote of 272 to 150 held on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2014. Since Majority Leader Reid promised President Obama will have a passed bill by the Aug. 1 deadline the Senate had no choice but to pass the House bill with a vote of 81 to 13.

The House version of the highway funding bill drafted by the Republican majority, and sponsored and authored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is a temporary short-term bill extending funding until May 2015. The $10.8 billion bill is being funded the same way as the unemployment benefits extension bill had planned to be paid for, through pension smoothing and customs fees. The unemployment benefits extension bill also will cost $10 billion for the five-month extension that is planned in the Reed-Heller bill.

In contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate’s bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed to fund their bill by pension smoothing and raising taxes, mainly the gas tax. The Senate had two bills, one provides a long-term solution, but without Republicans agreeing to raise taxes the two parties might never come to an agreement on the bill. The second bill is an even shorter term bill, last only until December and paid for with tax increases. Majority Leader Reid wanted the Senate to vote on all three versions of the transportation bills, saying; “My intention is have votes on all three.”

The House of Representatives passed the Highway Trust Fund Extension bill; H.R. 5021: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The House passed highway trust fund extension bill takes away the funds from pension smoothing and increasing customs fees that Reed and Heller had been planning to use. The eEven more bad news is the fact that the bill passed with bipartisan support 367 to 55.

With so many jobs on the line, if the highway bill fails to be renewed, the bill had the reluctant support of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Senate as well, leaving the unemployment benefits extension almost doomed to failure. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-UT admitted the Senate has no choice if they are to meet the deadline; “Congress needs to act immediately to prevent a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund … Thousands of jobs are at stake here. The only viable solution is for the Senate to take up the House bill and pass it. … We don’t have any other options if we want to get this done before the recess.”

Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and declined by 1.1 million since July 2013.

There are, however, still 3.2 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.9 percent of all unemployed Americans. Older workers, women and younger workers within service and blue-collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, the EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Here it is eight months later with long-term unemployment essentially not and Congress is no closer in fact further from passing an extension than it was then.

When the House passed the Highway Trust Fund Sen. Heller acknowledged that it was going to difficult to find new funding that Republicans would approve of, saying; “That’s going to be an issue.” Heller spoke to Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call about finding new funding for the bill and not giving up. Heller said, “Jack [Reed] and I had a conversation last week just trying to figure – you know there are no pay-fors left out there – trying to figure out how we can move this thing forward. We haven’t given up, we are just still trying to figure out what our next move is.” With a five-week recess, they are bound to find a way to fund the bill, the more difficult problem is how to get the Senate and House to pass the extension.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics July 30, 2014: Dropping unemployment might prevent unemployment extension Congressional passage

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Dropping unemployment might prevent unemployment extension Congressional passage

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, July 30, 2014, 4:03 PM MST

Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Republicans might be even less likely to pass the unemployment benefits extension with the improving unemployment rates; Congress is on the verge of another recess without extending benefits
Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Republicans might be even less likely to pass the unemployment benefits extension with the improving unemployment rates; Congress is on the verge of another recess without extending benefits
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Politics July 21, 2014: GOP highway fund bill takes away funding from unemployment benefits extension

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GOP highway fund bill takes away funding from unemployment benefits extension 

July 21, 2014, 12:34 PM MST

The House of Representatives has taken away funding sources for the unemployment benefits extension with their version of the highway trust fund bill, July 15, 2014
The House of Representatives has taken away funding sources for the unemployment benefits extension with their version of the highway trust fund bill, July 15, 2014
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Politics July 16, 2014: Reid open to adding unemployment extension to Obama’s emergency spending bill

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Reid open to adding unemployment extension to Obama’s emergency spending bill 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, July 16, 2014, 9:23 PM MST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that he is open to Sen. Jack Reed's request to add the unemployment benefits extension or any ammendment to the border crisis emergency spending bill, July 10, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that he is open to Sen. Jack Reed’s request to add the unemployment benefits extension or any amendment to the border crisis emergency spending bill, July 10, 2014
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Politics July 9, 2014: Heller blames Obama for unemployment benefits extension failure

Heller blames Obama for unemployment benefits extension failure

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, July 9, 2014, 11:53 AM MST

Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
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Politics June 28, 2014: House introduces first bipartisan unemployment extension bill pressures Boehner

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House introduces first bipartisan unemployment extension bill pressures Boehner

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 28, 2014, 7:29 PM MST

Eight Representatives introduced the first bipartisan unemployment benefits extension bill in the House as a companion to the Senate bill, June 25, 2014; they hope it will press Speaker of the House John Boehner to put the UI extension to a vote
Eight Representatives introduced the first bipartisan unemployment benefits extension bill in the House as a companion to the Senate bill, June 25, 2014; they hope it will press Speaker of the House John Boehner to put the UI extension to a vote
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Politics June 27, 2014: Obama needs to insist that GOP House pass the unemployment benefits extension

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Obama needs to insist that GOP House pass the unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 27, 2014, 7:17 PM MST

President Barack Obama has not tried enough to ensure the passage of the unemployment benefits extension; Obama casually attacks the GOP in a Minnesota speech for not passing the bill, June 27, 2014
President Barack Obama has not tried enough to ensure the passage of the unemployment benefits extension; Obama casually attacks the GOP in a Minnesota speech for not passing the bill, June 27, 2014
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Politics June 26, 2014: Democrat Harkin prevented unemployment extension passing with jobs training bill

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Democrat Harkin prevented unemployment extension passing with jobs training bill

 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 26, 2014, 12:36 AM MST

 

 

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA refused to allow the unemployment benefits extension bill to be added as an ammendment to the Senate jobs training bill because he was afriad it would "screw up" the bill's passage, June 24, 2014
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA refused to allow the unemployment benefits extension bill to be added as an ammendment to the Senate jobs training bill because he was afriad it would “screw up” the bill’s passage, June 24, 2014
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Politics June 25, 2014: Heller and Reed unveil new unemployment extension bill excludes retro payments

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Heller and Reed unveil new unemployment extension bill excludes retro payments

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 25, 2014, 3:19 PM MST

Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV introduce in a joint press conferene a new unemployment benefits extension bill, June 24, 2014; they are hoping this bill willl restore benefits to the 3.1 million who have lost benefits since December 2013

Office of Senator Jack Reed, D-RI

New hope for the over three million long-term jobless Americans was unveiled in the form of a new unemployment benefits extension bill introduced by Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV in a joint press conference on Tuesday morning, June 24, 2014, in the Capitol building. The bill is a much more parsed down version than the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 that passed the Senate on April 7, and languished in the House of Representative committee stage, before expiring on May 31, 2014. There is one catch for the new bill will not include retroactive payments, therefore some long-term employed could lose up to six months of payments if they lost them when the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013 and are still unemployed.

The bipartisan duo which have been working to secure legislation to extends the EUC program since December 2013, are united in fighting for the long-term unemployed in their states, Rhode Island and Nevada. Both their states have the highest number of long-term jobless in the country. Senator Reed in introducing the new legislation urged Congress to pass their new attempt to extend unemployment benefits and he explained that doing everything to help Americans get back to work is important to stabilizing the economy and creating jobs.

Reed believes extending benefits is key to this goal; “We need to get our country back to full employment — to a place where all Americans have an opportunity to earn a living and build a better life for their families. Restoring unemployment insurance is the decent thing to do, and it is a smart step that will provide some much needed stability and predictability to the long-term unemployed as well as to local businesses and our economy as a whole. That is why Senator Heller and I continue working on bipartisan solutions that will help job seekers. I appreciate Senator Heller’s steadfast leadership and commitment to helping more people who’ve been out of work return to the labor force.”

While Heller emphasized the problems his long-term unemployed constituents in Nevada are facing without the extension and he believes this new bill should satisfy the House GOP leadership’s demands as well as Democratic supporters. Heller recounted; “This year has been extremely difficult for Nevadans who still do not know how they are going to pay their bills or feed their families. Senator Reed and I have gone back to the drawing board, and put together a new proposal that I hope both chambers of Congress can debate and vote on. This new bill allows for job-seeking Americans to collect these important benefits moving forward, and pays for them as well. I am grateful to Senator Reed for his continued partnership on this important issue. His input and his friendship have been invaluable over the past many months.”

Senators Reed and Heller’s new stand-alone bill attempts to comply more with Speaker of the House John Boehner’s, R-OH demands. The bill will have a five-month extension, lasting approximately until the end of 2014. The new bill will cost a total of $10 billion and will be paid for by revenue, including “pension smoothing” and “extending Customs user fees through 2024” as was the last bill. One of the major benefits of the new bill is that unlike the previous one there is no deadline; Congress can always choose to pass it, preferably sooner rather than later.

The bill includes additional provisions, including excluding Americans who have earned $1 million and over the previous year. Those receiving benefits would also be allowed to have access “enhanced, personalized assessments and referrals to reemployment services” to help them in the efforts to find employment, a task that is far more difficult for the long-term unemployed since they face discrimination. They will able to received those services at “27th week of UI (Tier I)” and then again at the “55th week of UI (Tier III).”

The new bill however, would not be retroactive, because rates have been falling even slightly, and it was also a roadblock to passing the bill the last time. Boehner believed the states have not been keeping track of eligibility, since the deal was reached months after the EUC program expired. Heller stated at the press conference the reasoning behind the decision to omit this element from the bill; “In the environment we have here today, we wouldn’t be able to pass retroactive unemployment extension.” Meanwhile Reed thinks that “All of these excuses – not reasons, but excuses – foiled our plan. So we’re beginning again.”

Although there will not be a retroactive element, those who were eligible when the EUC program expired and did not go back to work, will be allowed to collect the remaining weeks of benefits they were set to receive when the new bill would be signed into law. Reed and Heller announced; “The new Reed-Heller bill provides prospective emergency benefits and allows eligible job seekers who were cut off on December 28 to pick up where they left off in the UI claims process.” Sen. Reed’s spokesman Chip Unruh explained to CBS News how that will work; “If you were eligible for three more weeks…you would be able to collect those three weeks.”

The new bill does not include that almighty job creation element, which was the main roadblock for the first Senate passed bill. It was not possible for the Senate to add job creation measures to the bill. Heller previously stated that adding job creation elements is something the House would have to do. Then the two bills can be resolved in conference negotiations with the Senate. The first Reed-Heller bill also did not include job creation measures. After the bill was passed and transferred to the House, Boehner had unsuccessfully lobbied that the White House provide him a list of acceptable job creating provisions to the now defunct bill. Job creation provisions were a key demand from the speaker in order to put the bill to a House vote. Senate leadership or the White House were not willing to allow Boehner to add any provisions that were appealing to the House Republicans, any suggestions given were part of Obama and Democrats agenda. Heller is an agreement with Boehner that the White House provide provisions that are acceptable for the GOP House to move along the bill.

The fact that the bill still does not include job creation provisions might mean it could result in the same fate in the House as the previous Reed-Heller bill. Senator Heller expressed however; “It’s the best we can do under the circumstances,” even though he wished the bill could had all the elements of the original bill. Heller also understands the reluctance Republicans have for the bill. The bill is a “water downed” version was supposed to appeal to Republican demands however; Speaker was not “impressed.” Speaker Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel commented after the press conference unveiling; “The speaker laid out the criteria before Christmas: We will take a look at any plan that is fiscally-responsible, and does something to help create private-sector jobs.”

Although earlier in the month Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-NV promised to bring the new bill to a vote, stating; “Anytime Sen. Heller makes a little progress on this we’ll bring it back. Because people are just as desperate today as they were two months ago” it is still not listed for a vote date. Reid was pleased with the new bill “applauding” the senator efforts “to keep the issue alive.” Speaking at the Democratic Senate Leadership weekly news conference Reid criticized the House Republicans for not acting on the issue; “We need to get some movement in the House. We’ve already passed an unemployment extension over here and the House, in their typical fashion, has done nothing.”

Senator Reed is uncertain when the bill will reach the Senate floor for a vote, explaining; “This is a very crowded agenda for the rest of the year. We are not giving up. We are going to use the same all-out full court press all the time. If there is an opening and we can bring the bill to the floor and we’ve got the votes we are going to urge the leader to do that.” Senator Heller never expected that it take so long to extend the EUC program when he and Reed first began collaborating for it s renewal over six months ago. Heller said; “What I was hoping would be a sprint has become a marathon.”

There are some additional hurdles to having the new bill passed. First House Republicans, if they would demonstrate an interest in passing the bill, by acting on the old bill with modifications, it would improve the chances of Senate Republicans again voting for the extension. Of the original Republican co-sponsors “Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Portman of Ohio,” Kirk is displaying reluctance to support the new bill.

If there was chance that the new House leadership would be any more lax and supportive passing the extension, it is not and is standing even more behind Boehner. Heller spoke with his friend from the House Majority-Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, who is just as insistent as the speaker that job creating provisions need to be included to pass any EUC extending legislation. Heller is in the process of ongoing negotiations with the new House leader and recounted McCarthy’s position; “His message was very clear. It was very similar to Boehner’s-very similar to Boehner’s-and that is, ‘We want job provisions.'”

President Barack Obama’s obstinance and refusal to get involved in the negotiation process has been also a major roadblock, especially in rallying the Speaker and House Republicans. Heller believes “If we are going to make progress … he needs to be more engaged and I’ll continue to say that. He needs to pick up the phone and call the speaker and say, ‘Hey, how are we going to get this done.'” Heller is working every angle possible to beat the odds and ensure the bill passes preferably before the August recess. Heller is working with Majority Leader Reid to schedule the debate and vote, he is garnering votes from Senate Republicans particularly the old co-sponsors who helped the bill pass the last time, and he is negotiating with the House Republican leadership to ensure the bill gets scheduled as well in the House once it passes the Senate.

Heller and Reed’s cooperation is the bipartisan model Congress should strive for, but Reed still blames the House Republicans for not passing their first unemployment benefits extension bill, and the opposition early on to their new bill, and the roadblocks they will place to prevent its passage or even a vote on it. Reed expressed that “There are lots of our colleagues in Congress who don’t want to act, and we’ve heard lots of excuses.”

Senator Reed fought back against the Republicans favorite argument against extending the EUC program that the unemployment situation is getting better. Reed said although number are improving for the short term unemployed, the long-term unemployed are facing the brunt if the problems. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate in May remains high at 3.4 million, 34.6 percent or a third of all unemployed Americans, just slightly lower than in April. Older workers, women and younger workers with in service and blue collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Reed explained; “We are seeing the overall unemployment numbers come down, but long-term unemployment is stuck pretty much where it’s been for the last year.”

Presently over 3.1 million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, they need the benefits to survive, and each week around 72,000 keep losing benefits. That number is more than double the original 1.3 million that were affected when the bill first expired on Dec. 28, 2013. In total over 10 million Americans are still unemployed from the Great Recession and its aftermath. Sen. Heller worries the most about living in the western states, expressing “I’m concerned going into the summer months,” because of the rising gas prices increasing cost of living and making it more difficult for the long-term jobless on their job hunt.

Despite opposition from Republicans, Democrats in both the House and Senate staunchly support extending unemployment benefits. Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI, the Ranking Member of Ways and Means Committee who has launched “Witness Wednesdays” commended the new bill in a statement. Levin wrote; “The bipartisan bill introduced today in the Senate answers Speaker Boehner’s demands that any extension of unemployment benefits be paid for and be provided only on a prospective basis. The bill could be easily combined with upcoming legislation to fund transportation improvements or to extend tax breaks to meet the Speaker’s final demand that any UI extension be part of larger legislation that will create jobs. The time for excuses is long over. Three million Americans – including nearly 300,000 veterans – have now lost their unemployment benefits because of Republican obstructionism. We must act now.”

Witness Wednesdays is being held each Wednesday in June and July at lunch time, 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. on the Capital steps where “members of Congress and faith, labor, civil rights, and nonprofit leaders” read personal stories submitted to the Democrats’ Ways and Means Committee website of those suffering from losing their unemployment benefits. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) Schakowsky, who has been involved in those weekly sessions expressed that “There is a commitment from the Democrats in the House to not let this fall off of the table.” Continuing Schakowsky explained; “This is about families and the stories are devastating.” Senators Heller and Reed understand the hardships the families are facing and Heller promised Americans “We’re not giving up.”

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics June 22, 2014: Reed and Heller to introduce new unemployment extension bill to Senate this week

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Reed and Heller to introduce new unemployment extension bill to Senate this week

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 22, 2014, 6:55 PM MST

Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV intend to introduce to the Senate a new unemployment benefits extension bill this week, June 20, 2014; they are hoping this bill willl restore benefits to the over 3 million who have lost benefits
Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV intend to introduce to the Senate a new unemployment benefits extension bill this week, June 20, 2014; they are hoping this bill willl restore benefits to the over 3 million who have lost benefits
T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Politics June 13, 2014: Levin launches Witness Wednesdays to pressure GOP to pass unemployment extension

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Levin launches Witness Wednesdays to pressure GOP to pass unemployment extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 13, 2014, 4:47 PM MST

Rep. Sander Levin launching the first of seven Witness Wendesdays events on the Capitol steps featuring personal stories of the long-term jobless affected by the EUC program's expiration, June 11, 2014
Rep. Sander Levin launching the first of seven Witness Wendesdays events on the Capitol steps featuring personal stories of the long-term jobless affected by the EUC program’s expiration, June 11, 2014
democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov

Politics June 12, 2014: Heller wants Obama to be involved in unemployment benefits extension negotiations

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Heller wants Obama to be involved in unemployment benefits extension negotiations

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 12, 2014, 10:30 AM MST

Chief Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest tries to dodge questions about President Barack Obama's lack of involvement in negotiating with Congress over the unemployment benefits extension

Play
Chief Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest tries to dodge questions about President Barack Obama’s lack of involvement in negotiating with Congress over the unemployment benefits extension
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Politics June 11, 2014: Levin wants unemployment extension be added to tax extenders or highway bills

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Levin wants unemployment extension be added to tax extenders or highway bills

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 11, 2014, 5:14 AM MST

Rep. Sander Levin is urging the Senate, House and Speaker of the House John Boehner to pass an unemployment benefits extension in a new Roll Call article, either as a stand alone bill or as an ammendment to tax cuts extenders or highways bills, June 8, 20

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI the Ranking Democratic Member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives has taken to Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call writing a commentary piece urging Congress especially the Republican majority in the House to pass an extension Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. In the opinion piece published on June 8, 2014, Levin urged President Barack Obama, speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH and Congress to work to find a way to extend unemployment benefits for America’s long-term jobless. Levin indicated that there were three options, pass a standalone unemployment benefits extension bill, are adding it as an amendment to the either the must pass business tax cuts extenders or highway bills.

Over 2.9 million long-term jobless Americans, unemployed for 27 weeks or more lost benefits over five months ago on Dec. 28, 2013, when the EUC program expired. In the five months there were two potential times time to renew the program the first bipartisan bill in the Senate failed in February when Republicans balked at it not providing revenue to pay for the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014. The second bipartisan deal co-authored and sponsored by Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV reached in March included revenue to cover the costs, extended the program retroactively, lasting for five months with a new end date of June 1, 2014. The bill passed in the Senate on Monday, April 7 after a series of procedural votes, and has languished at the committee stage in the House since.

Speaker Boehner refuses to put bill to a vote without job creation measures included, and he has continually asked the White House to provide him with a list if acceptable provisions. Boehner requests went with no actual response. The White House, President Obama, and Senate Majority Leader Reid consistently refuse to allow any provisions to be added to the bill that would have made it more attractive to the Republican House. The only direct response the speaker received from the Obama administration was from Secretary of Labor Perez, who sent a letter to Boehner on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Perez provided Boehner with a list of possible job creation provisions, which were all Obama and Democrat legislative priorities, and most would not appeal to Republicans. Although there was one exception, the jobs training bill.

Adding the unemployment benefits extension to the Senate’s jobs training bill “the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (PL 105-220),” would have been acceptable to Republicans, but the sponsors already refused to add it as an amendment. Some House Republican supported adding the extension to the House passed jobs training bill, HR 803 the “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act” sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., but that never amounted to anything.

Boehner also considered the original bill “unworkable” because of the retroactive element. At the time of the Senate bill deal the EUC program had already been expired for nearly three months. The speaker had reservations about the states implementing retroactive benefits, believing they have not kept up verified the long-term jobless’ eligibility. Despite assurances from Secretary of Labor Perez implementation remained a road black. The obstacles have prevented the bill from ever reaching a vote in the House. The long-term jobless have been left hopeless since the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014, technically expired on May 31, 2014, and the House of Representative did not put it to a vote before they went on a recess from May 30 until June 9. Technically they can still vote on the bill, but will probably not.

The Michigan representative has long been an advocate for extending benefits. Previously on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Levin personally pressured Boehner to pass the Heller-Reed bill by sending him a letter that featured over 50 personal anecdotessubmitted and chosen to be included “describe how getting cut off of benefits has affected them.” The letter put a personal face on the Americans the House would be helping if they would pass the unemployment benefits extension.

In his new article Levin emphasized that the “long-term unemployment crisis” has been “made worse by the five-month expiration of federal unemployment benefits.” Levin argued that the long-term unemployment rate is still high enough to warrant the extended benefits, explaining that; “Our government has never terminated unemployment benefits when a full 35 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more.”

Nearly three million long-term jobless Americans, unemployed for more than 27 weeks desperately need the benefits to survive, and each week over keep 70,000 losing benefits. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate in May remains high at 3.4 million or 34.6 percent of all unemployed Americans, just slightly lower than in April. The number is much lower than the April 2010 “peak” of 45.5 percent, but not as low as the short-term unemployed rate. The EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent.

Rep. Levin is calling on President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Congress to pass a benefits extension for the “three million unemployed workers and their families,” “the economy,” and “the future of the workforce.” Levin went on to elaborate the effect not extending benefits will have on all three elements. Levin called the House not extending the program and putting the bill to a vote “cruel” to “hardworking Americans.” He then listed the ways the long-term jobless have been financially destroyed by the program expiring. Rep. Levin explained that they have “exhausted their savings, seen their homes foreclosed on, let bills go unpaid, and run out of money needed to just put gas in their cars to go on an interview.”

According to Levin the House Republicans’ spite in not passing the bill is “short-sighted” considering the long term affects and harm to the economy not extending benefits is causing. Levin recounted that “nearly $5 billion was pulled out of our economy during the first quarter of 2014 – money that would have been spent on food, clothes, gas and other essentials by the long-term unemployed.”

Levin also used the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study to back up his claims on the economic ramifications, saying not extending the benefits “will cost our economy 200,000 jobs this year.” The CBO study determined that if the benefits would be extended for a year it would provide 0.2 growth to the economy, and even the five-month Senate extension would serve beneficial to the economy. If extended for a full year the CBO study concludes extending benefits would add 200,000 jobs and the program would cost $26 billion.

The problem remains that mostly older workers are the ones facing the long-term joblessness or as Levin describes “bearing the biggest burden.” Employers prefer younger workers with more technological skills, leaving older workers to the wayside. So while the economy has rebounded for the short-term unemployed the long-term are still facing unemployment. The longer a worker is unemployed the more difficult it is for them to find employment.

Levin indicated older workers already feel conscious because of their age, pointing out that “Older unemployed workers already tend to leave age related information off their resumes.” Levin found his data from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which determined that “unemployed individuals 55 and over have been out of work for nearly a year.” Actually the situation became worst even as the economy was supposedly improving and unemployment rates falling.

Thirdly, Levin discussed the “future of the workforce” worried that the lack of benefits will discourage workers and they will drop out from the workforce, and stop actively looking for work. Levin believes that would be one of the “greatest threats our fragile economic recovery.” Levin believes that the long-term unemployed “will permanently leave the labor force,” without benefits “hurting the economy for years to come.”

Rep. Levin based this conclusion on a study conducted by Princeton University economics Professor Alan Krueger entitled “Are the Long-Term Unemployed on the Margins of the Labor Market?” Krueger previously was the “Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a Member of his Cabinet from November 2011 to August 2013.” According to the study “Even in good times, the long-term unemployed are on the margins of the labor market, with diminished job prospects and high labor force withdrawal rates, and as a result they exert little pressure on wage growth or inflation.” The study conducted with two other Princeton professors Judd Cramer, and David Cho for the Brookings Institute.

According to the study the make-up on the long-term unemployed consist of workers in minimum wage or near minimum wage jobs; “sales and service jobs (36 percent) and blue collar jobs (28 percent).” Additionally there are differences with educational background Krueger explains that the “unemployed are younger, less likely to be married, and less well-educated (about one third of employed workers have a bachelor’s degree, while less than 20 percent of the unemployed have one; nearly 20 percent of the unemployed lack a high school diploma – twice the rate for the employed).” Contradicting, Levin’s and most Democrats arguments, Krueger does not find the long-term jobless to be old-workers.

The Great Recession hit this particular group the hardest and a long-term unemployment grew the most “reaching 4.5 times its historical average, suggesting that long-term unemployment will be a lingering problem even if the unemployment rate returns to normal.” Levin uses Krueger’s point that the long-term jobless” become discouraged more quickly than the short-term unemployed and stop looking for work” as the main point for his argument in favor extending benefits. Levin explains “That’s why Dr. Krueger concludes that an underappreciated, but vital reason to extend unemployment benefits in the current economic environment is that it helps keep long-term unemployed workers actively looking for a job. Keeping them in the labor force can – in the long run – boost employment and the size of the economy.”

There is a fourth problem long-term unemployment is causing that Levin did not mention; it is that it also causes depression. According to a new Gallup poll published on Monday, June 10, 2014 20 percent of the long-term jobless Americans unemployed for a year “currently have or are being treated for depression.” In general 12.4 percent of the unemployed Americans are depressed while only 5.6 percent of working Americans are suffering and being treated for depressed, that number “jumps” up to 18 percent for the long-term jobless. According to Gallup “This marked drop in optimism may affect job seekers’ motivation, increasing the risk that they will drop out of the labor force altogether.” Gallup concludes that “Record-high rates of long-term unemployment remain one of the most devastating effects of the Great Recession in the U.S. The economic cost is huge — but just as tragic are signs of poor mental health among unemployed Americans.”

Michigan Rep. Levin believes that the unemployment benefits extension bill can be made to satisfy Speaker Boehner’s requirements. Levin asserted “Taking the speaker at his word, he made three prerequisites to supporting an extension of unemployment insurance. From this point forward, we can easily satisfy his demands.” Responding to Boehner’s first demand that “the extension to be paid for,” Levin argues that although “most economists agree that unemployment insurance is a stimulus because money flows right back into the economy” the Senate bill “included offsets.” As for the second demand the “states’ ability to implement the program retroactively,” Levin thinks that benefits can extended “through the end of the year” the retroactive element can be eliminated all the while “maintaining an individual’s weeks of eligibility.” The third element in Speaker Boehner’s demand is having the “unemployment benefits tied to job creation.”

Although the unemployment benefits extension bill’s authors Reed and Heller are currently working on a new stand-alone bill that will fits Boehner’s demands, they still do not believe it is possible for the Senate to add job creation methods. They consider that is something the House would have to do, and then resolved in conference negotiations with the Senate. Presently a new bill will cost $2 billion a week bill will be paid for by revenue, with a possible year extension or at least until the end of 2014, but would not be retroactive. They are currently looking to for enough Republicans supporters to sponsor it, to ensure passage in a new Senate vote. While Senate Majority Leader Reid already promised to put the completed bill to a Senate vote this summer.

The easiest way to ensure the bill’s passage however, would be adding it as an amendment to a popular bipartisan bill that Republicans in the Senate and the House usually support and vote for. The leading candidates are the business tax extenders bill “S.2260 – EXPIRE Act of 2014” and the Highway Trust Fund bill “S.2322: MAP-21 Reauthorization Act,” both which have always been renewed. Sen. Reed has already proposed adding a one year benefits extension as an amendment to the tax extenders bill. Rep. Levin also tends to agree believing tying the benefits extension to those two bills would satisfy the job creation element Boehner has looking for. To conclude Levin called passing the unemployment benefits extension with either popular and must-pass bill “a win-win solution” for Americans and Congress.

RELATED LINKS

  • S.2260 – EXPIRE Act of 2014, Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR] (Introduced 04/28/2014), 05/07/2014 Motion to proceed to consideration of measure made in Senate. S. Rept. 113-154

Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics June 6, 2014: Reid promises to put new unemployment benefits extension deal to a Senate vote

EXAMINER ARTICLES

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POLITICS

Reid promises to put new unemployment benefits extension deal to a Senate vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 6, 2014, 5:48 AM MST

Senate Majority  Leader Harry Reid promises to put any new unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote when a deal is reached, June 5, 2014; the first Senate passed bill expired on May 31, 2014 without the House putting it to a vote
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to put any new unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote when a deal is reached, June 5, 2014; the first Senate passed bill expired on May 31, 2014 without the House putting it to a vote
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Politics June 2, 2014: House recesses as unemployment extension bill deadline passes, can still pass

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

POLITICS

House recesses as unemployment extension bill deadline passes, can still pass

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 2, 2014, 1:40 AM MST

The House of Representatives went on a week recess without even putting the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote, May 30, 2014; Speaker John Boehner could still pass the bill after the deadline
The House of Representatives went on a week recess without even putting the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote, May 30, 2014; Speaker John Boehner could still pass the bill after the deadline
Alex Wong/Getty Images